Bevin Boy Mining Memorial

It was during a visit to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield last week that I came across Henry Moore’s excellent drawing of Bevin Boy miners. It put me in mind of the mining memorial that I created for the Bevin Boys, sited at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire back in 2013.

Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, between December 1943 and March 1948. Chosen by lot as ten percent of all male conscripts aged 18–25, plus some volunteering as an alternative to military conscription, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital and dangerous, but largely unrecognised service in coal mines. Many of them were not released from service until well over two years after the Second World War ended.

I worked with former Nottinghamshire Bevin Boy Harry Parkes to create the work. We travelled to Southern Ireland to choose rough blocks of Kilkenny limestone for the piece, deciding that to best echo the nature of the work and conditions down the mines, it needed  to be rough and  craggy, certainly not a polished granite monolith. The memorial consisted of 4 stones with unpainted inscriptions chiselled into the rough surfaces like miners scratches on the coal face walls. The grey stone turning coal-like black when wet gives this memorial an unglamorous and workman-like feel.

BBC radio 4 recently did an excellent feature on Harry Parkes and the Bevin Boys, featuring the memorial.”Britain’s Underground Army” is available by clicking this link.